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HER Number:MDV11614
Name:Higher Brownsham House, Hartland


17th century former farmhouse with a remarkable plaster ceiling on first floor.


Grid Reference:SS 285 259
Map Sheet:SS22NE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishHartland
Ecclesiastical ParishHARTLAND

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS22NE/5
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II*): 91227
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SS22NE6

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • FARMHOUSE (Built, XVII - 1601 AD to 1700 AD)

Full description

Chappell, S., 18/09/2012, Higher Brownsham Farm (Un-published). SDV350920.

Rendered front and bare stone back walls with Marland brick extension.

Chappell, S., 18/09/2012, Plaster Ceiling at Higher Brownsham (Ground Photograph). SDV350927.

Department of Environment, 1955, Bideford RD, 13 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV4813.

Brownsham. 17th century farmhouse. L-shaped plan, 2 storeys. Remarkable plaster ceiling.

Department of Environment, 1958, Hartland (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV323245.

Higher Brownsham Farmhouse and barn adjoining to north-west. House formerly farmhouse. Early 17th century with later 17th century and probably later 18th century additions. Stone rubble walls rendered at the front. Gable-ended natural rag slate roof to house, asbestos to barn. Brick axial stack and large rubble stack at left gable-end with brick shaft.
Plan: original plan is unclear since in its present form the house does not conform to any standard plan types. It now consists of a larger room to the left heated by a fireplace at its left end and through which the house is entered with a smaller room to its right heated by an axial stack which divides the 2 rooms. This room is actually in 2 parts and it is evident that its right-hand part was taken out of the adjoining barn which was probably added in the circa late 18th century. At the front of the left-hand room is a narrow wing which judging from a 1st floor doorframe is a later 17th century addition - probably for service purposes. A 19th century 2-storey porch was built at the rear of the left-hand room and the right-hand room has been built out slightly at the rear and a staircase inserted behind the stack. Evidently this house has undergone a complex development and any interpretation of its plan form can only be tentative but one possible theory is that the house originally extended further to the left with a passage and lower room end and what now survives is the hall and inner room of a 3-room-and-through-passage plan house which was then further extended. There is some possible evidence of rebuilding at this lower gable-end but only an archaeological survey would reveal the original extent of this house.
Exterior: 2 storeys. Asymmetrical 3-window front with barn attached at right-hand end and narrow wing projecting from left-hand end. On 1st floor to left is 3-light 20th century small-paned casement, 12-pane early 19th century hornless sash at centre and later 19th century
taller one to the right which is a half dormer. Below it is a taller 20th century 2-light casement and a fixed small-paned light to the centre. To the left is a 20th century panelled and part-glazed door under slate hood. Extending in the same line to the right of the house is the barn which has a wide cart entrance at its left end with flanking buttresses and a smaller building projecting from its right-hand end. Wing projecting from left-hand end has 2 19th century 12-pane sashes on the first floor and 2-light circa early 20th century casements below. Irregular rear elevation has barn to left with small wing projecting from its end, single storey section to its right and gabled 2 storey porch projecting to right of centre. Mainly 19th century sash windows with stair window with marginal glazing bars to left of porch. Entrance to porch is in its right-hand side. Probably circa early 20th century single storey wing projecting to right of porch. The wide barn doorway re-uses 2 17th century ovolo-moulded ceiling beams on its lintels.
Interior: on the ground floor there are few early features visible although fireplaces are probably covered up. Doorway into right-hand room has ovolo-moulded 17th century wooden frame raised and hollow step stops. Chamfered ceiling beam with ogee stops in right-hand room. On the first floor of the narrow front wing is a blocked doorway with apparently 17th century chamfered frame which has masons mitres. The most important feature of this house is the very fine decorative plaster ceiling in the chamber over the left-hand room dating circa 1620 - 40. It is designed in a pattern of 2 concentric circles of hearts formed by enriched ribs with running vine pattern. There are 4 hearts at the centre and 8 around the outside and in the 4 panels where the outer and inner hearts adjoin are 4 bowls of fruit in high relief - one of apples, one of oranges, one of lemons and one of pears. At the inner point of each heart is a spray of flowers, the one towards the rear wall also incorporates a human face. At the centre of the whole design is an unusual plaster pendant with 4 identical mens faces around it. A plaster frieze runs along the 2 end walls of the room, in a fragment on the front wall, with a design of heralidc shields and beasts. Over the outside end wall frieze is a moulded plaster cornice. The roof truss in this room consists of straight principals with a crossed apex and collar halved on with notched lap joint.
This is not an easy building to understand but despite its confusing plan and development it survives in a fairly unspoilt state retaining a traditional external appearance and with a surprisingly high quality plaster ceiling. The house forms part of an unspoilt and picturesque hamlet. Other details: LBS No. 91227.

National Trust, 1984, Clovelly and East Titchberry, 11 (Report - Survey). SDV337536.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1987 - 1980, SS22NE6 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV341994.

Collings, A. G. + Manning, P. T. + Valentin, J., 2007, The North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Phase 1. Archaeological Survey. Summary Report, No. 141 (Report - Assessment). SDV339712.

Brownsham. 17th century farmhouse. L-shaped plan, two storeys. Remarkable plaster ceiling.

Adams, A., 2010, Sgraffito - Decorated and Painted Plaster on Devon Fireplaces, 4; Fig 18 (Report - non-specific). SDV354436.

Sgraffito-decorated fireplace.

Humphreys, C., 2013, Higher Brownsham House (Ground Photograph). SDV355622.

Humphreys, C., 2013, Higher Brownsham House, Hartland, Devon, 3; Figures 1-3 (Report - Survey). SDV356524.

During building work the render of the north-east elevation was removed exposing fine coursed stonework of considerable quality. As there appeared to be no alternative but to re-render the wall a detailed record of the structure was made before it was again hidden. The observations made during this exercise led to a different interpretation of the development of the building to that stated in the earlier report therefore this report contains both the earlier interpretation and the re-interpretation gained from the recent survey. The phased plans included in this report are based on survey plans supplied by the National Trust and plans contained in the earlier reports but only shows the recent re-interpretation of the development of the building. See report for full details.

Adams, A., 2015, Sgraffito-Decorated and Painted Plaster on Devon Fireplaces, 166; Fig 7.19 (Article in Monograph). SDV365384.

Compass-drawn circles were used on a fireplace to frame a “daisy” pattern, where the resulting spaces form a round petalled pattern.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV323245List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1958. Hartland. Historic Houses Register. Website.
SDV337536Report - Survey: National Trust. 1984. Clovelly and East Titchberry. National Trust Archaeological Survey Report. A4 Stapled + Digital. 11.
SDV339712Report - Assessment: Collings, A. G. + Manning, P. T. + Valentin, J.. 2007. The North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Phase 1. Archaeological Survey. Summary Report. Exeter Archaeology Report. 06.22 (rev.1). A4 Stapled + Digital. No. 141.
SDV341994Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1987 - 1980. SS22NE6. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV350920Un-published: Chappell, S.. 18/09/2012. Higher Brownsham Farm. Digital.
SDV350927Ground Photograph: Chappell, S.. 18/09/2012. Plaster Ceiling at Higher Brownsham. Digital.
SDV354436Report - non-specific: Adams, A.. 2010. Sgraffito - Decorated and Painted Plaster on Devon Fireplaces. Exeter Archaeology. 10.24. A4 Grip Bound + Digital. 4; Fig 18.
SDV355622Ground Photograph: Humphreys, C.. 2013. Higher Brownsham House. Digital.
SDV356524Report - Survey: Humphreys, C.. 2013. Higher Brownsham House, Hartland, Devon. Southwest Archaeology. Digital. 3; Figures 1-3.
SDV365384Article in Monograph: Adams, A.. 2015. Sgraffito-Decorated and Painted Plaster on Devon Fireplaces. West Country Households 1500-1700. Hardback Volume. 166; Fig 7.19.
SDV4813List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1955. Bideford RD. Historic Houses Register. Unknown. 13.

Associated Monuments

MDV11615Parent of: Plaster Ceiling in Higher Brownsham House, Hartland (Monument)
MDV30775Part of: Brownsham, Hartland (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV6470 - Building Recording at Higher Brownsham House, Hartland

Date Last Edited:Mar 23 2023 1:57PM